President Michael D Higgins has defended the prison visit paid by his wife Sabina to activist Margaretta D'Arcy.

The President's office confirmed last night that Mrs Higgins had visited D'Arcy, an old friend from Co Galway, in Limerick Prison at the weekend.

At an event in Dublin this morning, President Higgins told Today FM: "Sabina was visiting a friend of long standing, whose health is frail and who is a fellow artist.

"Sabina is a person who can speak for herself and who is a person of very good judgement.

"We do a lot of things together, but we do a lot of other things as well," he added.

D'Arcy, 79, was jailed last week for three months, having refused to sign a bond not to enter non-public areas of Shannon Airport.

She was convicted of trespassing on the airport runway last October with another anti-war activist.

President Higgins said the visit was "private and personal" and that his wife and D'Arcy were "in many performances together".

Shatter statement on Margaretta D'Arcy

In a statement tonight, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said it was a “matter of regret” that D'arcy did not enter into a bond of good behaviour.

He said over €17.3m had been spent in connection with the security operation at Shannon Airport since 2004.

He assured the Dáil that D’Arcy has full access to the range of medical services available in Limerick Prison. 

He said she was medically assessed on committal to prison and seen by the prison doctor the next day.  

He stated that D’Arcy has access to a 24-hour nursing service in prison and access to a doctor daily if requested or on referral by the nursing staff. 

He told the house a signing of the bond to keep the peace would result in the D’Arcy's immediate release.